TULSA, Okla. — An Oklahoma woman who keeps a partially paralyzed kangaroo as a therapy pet said Wednesday that she is moving to another city over a spat with local officials, even though they insist they haven't told her to go or threatened to seize the animal.
Christie Carr, who says she has been diagnosed with depression, plans to take Irwin the kangaroo from Broken Arrow to McAlester to stay with her parents because of the fuss. Carr said she hastily packed what she could in her car Wednesday afternoon because she could "no longer trust" city officials.
"I don't know if I'll ever go back to Broken Arrow," Carr said as she made the two-hour drive to McAlester. "I don't know if I can even drive through there and feel safe."
But Broken Arrow spokeswoman Stephanie Higgins said no threats were made to seize the animal and that Carr failed to turn in the proper paperwork that would have allowed her to keep Irwin.
"She was given a draft proposal of the application last year, and she is saying she has not received anything," Higgins said Wednesday. "We have documented that we sent her the application."
Higgins said that the city re-delivered the application by hand on Wednesday, and that Carr still has until later this month to complete the necessary paperwork.
But Carr remained unconvinced, and said she was waiting for the city to send an official version of the paperwork.
"They have dragged their feet on everything," Carr said.
Last year, Broken Arrow's city council voted to create an exotic animal ordinance exemption that allowed Carr to keep Irwin within city limits under certain conditions. The permit required exotic animal owners to have a $50,000 liability insurance policy for any injuries inflicted by the animal, certification that the animal has adequate housing for its health and meet all federal and state guidelines for licensing, among other provisions.
Carr had been devastated because she couldn't afford to buy the insurance policy for Irwin, but an anonymous donor paid for Irwin's insurance last year.
Carr, who was unable to work because of her health, first found comfort in the companionship of Irwin after meeting him while volunteering at a local animal sanctuary on the advice of her therapist.
Irwin fractured his neck and suffered brain damage when he ran into a fence, and Carr offered to take him home and nurse him back to health. Irwin cannot stand or walk on his own, although he can hop with assistance.
At first, Broken Arrow city officials feared that the red kangaroo could present a risk to public safety. Native to Australia, healthy male great red kangaroos can grow up to 7 feet tall, weigh more than 200 pounds and bound 25 feet in a single leap.
But veterinarians said Irwin would probably not grow larger than 50 pounds because of his injury and because he has been neutered. Carr's therapist had certified the animal as a therapy pet under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Caring for Irwin is almost a full-time job for Carr: she changes his diaper several times a day, feeds him salad, raw vegetables and popcorn and dresses him up each time he leaves the house. The clothes – a little boy's shirt cut and sewed to accommodate his neck, sometimes a tie, and jeans or slacks with a hole cut for the tail – are necessary for therapeutic reasons and to protect him against germs, she said.
Carr said she had contacted animal control workers in McAlester and she said employees told her that the city had no ordinance banning kangaroos and that she and her pet were welcome in the city.
"I have to protect him," Carr said. "I have to get him out of there because they are not taking him. I haven't taken this paralyzed kangaroo and taught him to hop again for Broken Arrow to come in and remove him."